Blanck Mass’s World Eater is a party record for the apocalypse
Blanck Mass’s new album World Eater is gargantuan as each song feels like it could soundtrack a warship floating in the sky. The size and scale of the compositions here shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider that Blanck Mass is the solo recording project of Benjamin John Power, who alternately makes music with Andrew Hung under the name Fuck Buttons. Like Fuck Buttons, Blanck Mass makes music in which everything is mixed and pitched into extremity. And while there are shifts in pace, tone, and dynamic in this music, it’s really only a relative change. At its calmest, World Eater is as intense as someone like Trent Reznor ever got. Its most danceable tracks hit harder than anything produced by Skrillex. And yet it contains a connection to a pastoral beauty that might be a result from Power’s recent move to a village outside Edinburgh, Scotland.
The opening track, “John Doe’s Carnival of Error” eases us in with a repetitive chiming figure before rapidly accelerating into a fast four-on-the-floor crescendo where chopped vocals and synths cascade before abruptly stop before reaching a proper release. “John Doe’s” surprise ending is representative for World Eater which, both in inspiration and content, is meant to reflect the anger, violence, confusion, and frustration of our time. Despite its intensity, there’s always a sense of control that Power infuses into the music; we aren’t hearing an artist or his work go off the rails here. Instead, Power streamlines these conflicting and painful feelings into something much more manageable and cathartic. It’s not so much a documentation of a process, but rather a complete thought from a man who clearly considers his material.
The second track, “Rhesus Negative”, is one of the album’s high points. The double-time percussion8 wouldn’t be out of place on a death metal record, and its screaming vocal snippets sound like they’re lifted from the Locust. But Power counteracts these elements with tinkling melodic passages that are reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s soundtrack work in their spectral whimsy. “Please” runs Burial’s dubstep through Power’s practice, but, as engaging as the song can be for its majority, it ultimately falters due to its repetition, which feels more redundant than emotive. Thankfully, it’s the only lacking track on the album.
Much stronger is “The Rat” which sounds like a powerful Nine Inch Nails instrumental due to its catchy melody and heavy, thudding drums that are strip-mined from Kanye’s “Black Skinhead”. Another highpoint is “Silent Treatment”, which might be Power’s most expressive use of vocal samples on the entire record—the main recurring element being a choral sample that calls to mind Art of Noise’s class “Moments in Love”. Power’s song structure and arrangement here are impeccable: at its peak, the song uses repeating arpeggios, accenting synth stabs, and other vocal samples of “ugh” and “ah” as percussion. It’s also the album’s dreamiest song—the apex of violence and beauty meeting.
Power’s triptych “Minnesota / Eas Fors / Naked” moves from noisy, squelching synths to field recordings of a waterfall and, finally, a muffled piece of pop with gated drum reverb that makes it seem like a forgotten tune from decades ago. As a whole, it’s a fascinating piece, and a great palette cleanser for the album-closing “Hive Mind”, which reignites the melodic power of “Silent Treatment.” It’s probably the album’s most dancefloor-ready track with an undulating bass line and vocal warping, which Power deftly guides with his rippling synths till the song hits a powerful crescendo with cut-up screeching vocals.
By the album’s end, the listener is altered from continued exposure to Power’s work—everything else you’ll hear soon after will sound like children’s music. While there are thrills to be had with the sheer rush of the powerful music contained here, the greater sense of conflict that Power documents in his outward looking opus is the real success of the record.